There’s this sense of invincibility when you find yourself perched behind the wheel of the Audi e-tron S Sportback. The sheer mass and size of the car certainly helps to create that illusion.
Audi’s newest tri-motor e-Tron S Sportback drips with automotive excess. It is a car that is best described with superlatives. It is a full-sized coupe SUV, has 1,000Nm of torque, and a price tag just south of half a million dollars.
Especially in the Catalunya Red Metallic our test car was finished in, the e-tron S Sportback is brash and loud - though we aren’t sure if those are the appropriate adjectives for the car.
We aren't saying that this is a 'loud' EV from an auditory standpoint - the term 'loud' here really refers to the sheer visual presence the car has on the road. For starters, the car's new roofline means it looks less bulbous and more svelte than the regular Audi e-tron SUV.In case you can't visualise the difference between the two cars, here's a photo lifted from our review of the regular e-tron SUV last year. Reprofiled roofline aside, the e-tron S Sportback comes fitted with S-specific trim panels, and some rather fetching diamond-cut wheels.There's a very real chance of ruining the looks of a car by drastically altering its roofline. The coupe SUV craze started in the early 2010s, and some truly oddball creations were manufactured initially as automakers attempted to master this new formula. You can tell that this isn't Audi's first Sportback rodeo - the reduction in visual bulk up top means this is a better looking car than its regular SUV stablemate.There's no denying that there's more than a whiff of 'concept car' about it. Combined with the sci-fi, spaceship-inspired sound effect that serves as the soundtrack of the car's pedestrian warning system, this is an SUV that is both literally and figuratively a neck snapper.
Driving The Car
Figuratively, because you'll realise just how many people stop to do a second take, and literally because you'll get more than a decent shove into the seats when you unleash all 1,000Nm of its torques. That's when you'll also realise that, on the performance front at least, the car is very much a one-trick pony.Don't get us wrong - it is really nice to have all that instantaneous power on tap. Afterall, what are you really supposed to do with all the torques but to occasionally give it the beans when no one is watching? Beans sent, you'll realise that with all driver aids off and with your foot flat to the floor, the off-the-line acceleration is more than spritely, and there really isn't another car that you can compare this to.
Acceleratively speaking, the closest we've felt to this savagery is behind the wheel of a racing go-kart.But that's literally where the similarities with said racing machine end. As with the regular SUV variant, whilst the car isn't unwieldy in the twisties, the sheer mass makes for an imprecise canyon carver. On initial entry, there's enough traction and confidence to carry a decent bit of pace. Mid-corner, the car reminds you of its kerb weight as it awkwardly pulls you off line as it starts to loose front-end grip.There is a way to cure this understeer - with the additional torques from that one extra rear motor, you can nudge the rear end loose if you really wanted to. Not that we'd recommend it - the heft and the compliant (soft) suspension means the lateral weight transfer is awkward, and the over-assisted rack means feedback through the wheel is lacklustre too.
Brake feel is good, but on spirited drives, you'd very quickly realise that the front anchors could do with some further beefing up. As is the norm with most modern EVs, the e-tron S SB does come with regenerative braking, though it isn't toggled on by default in Sport mode.Audi uses a system that alternates the pace reduction between the friction brakes and regen in real-time. That is in theory anyways - we couldn't get it to work properly throughout our test drive. You can manually override the system by pulling the left paddle shifter to activate regen. The first setting allows you to shed speed gradually, with the second stopping you far more vigourously.
The paddles definitely add another dimension to the overall driving dynamics of the vehicle. Even on the more aggressive regen setting, you cannot do one-pedal driving as the car opts to coast when speeds are below 10km/h. You'll therefore need to use the friction brakes to fully stop the car.
The Interior Experience
Rather than describing the differences between the interiors of the regular SUV and the S Sportback variants in text, we thought we'd do an e-tron interior Spot The Difference.
Spotted the differences? The seats, steering wheel and start button are all lifted from Audi's S parts catalogue. Apart from the parts mentioned, the interiors are generally the same - this also means you'll find the same annoyances in the S, such as the quasi-capacitive touch button toggles for the drive mode selector which we are not fans of.
We also didn't fancy the expanse of plastic at where screens would have been installed if this car came with the optional Virtual Mirrors. This is car that will set you back almost half a million dollars - surely Audi could have come up with different tooling for the various options?But these are just small niggles in an otherwise pleasant cabin. Space, despite the sloping roofline, is decent. Ample head and legroom is on offer, and whilst cargo space is slightly compromised as a result of the sloping hind end of the vehicle, you would still be able to transport large items without a hitch.
A Rapid Vehicle In More Ways Than One
Audi claims their e-tron S SB will do 350 kilometres if its 95kWh battery is fully topped off. In reality, we achieved a real-world range of around 310 kilometres, which really isn't far off the estimates. Considering that we faced plenty of congestion, whilst also opting to keep the aircon running in between photoshoots, it is within the realm of possibility for the average driver to achieve a greater range than what we managed.
Fast charging of up to 150kW is possible with this car, and you can deplete the range just as quickly too - if you really wanted to. Stomp on the loud pedal and you'll achieve a 0-100 time in the low 4 second range, which is quicker than the 4.5 seconds Audi claims.The Audi e-tron S Sportback is proof that the future is already here, though its exorbitant sticker price means we aren't sure if your wallets are ready for it just yet.
Audi e-tron S Sportback Specs
$496,290VES Banding: A1
Drivetrain: Electric Motor
Battery: 95 kWh
Power: 429 bhp / 320 kW
Torque: 808 Nm (971 Nm in Boost Mode)
Energy Consumption: 3.8km/kWh
0-100km/h: 4.5 Seconds
DC Charging Rate: 150kW (max), 0.65h
AC Charging Rate: 11kW (max), 8.6h
Drivetrain: Two-stage planetary gearbox with single gear, AWDBrakes: Ventilated Disc Brakes
Wheelbase: 2,928 mm
Dimensions (LxWxH): 4,902 mm x 1,976 mm x 1,615 mm
Boot Capacity: 615 litres
Electric & Memory front seats w/ heating and cooling
Audi MMI System
LED headlights with high-beam assist
Photo Credit: ACube Creative (@weareacube)
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